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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Beach FAQ

Jul 15, 2018 12:00AM

By Cheryl Maguire

"Who wants to go to the beach?” This question is almost always answered with “ME!” in our family. During the summer we pack up our beach buggy and spend the day with our toes in the sand or surf.

Spending hours by the ocean, my curious children usually have many inquiries about their surroundings. Despite the fact I got an A in biology, I often have to say, “I don’t know.” To which my daughter actually once said, “Do you know anything about the beach and ocean?”

So I did some research and created a list of answers to FAQ. Use it to impress your children, or even create a trivia game.

Why does it sound like the ocean when you hold a shell up to your ear? It is actually the amplified sound of the noises around you.

How are seashells made? Creatures such as clams pull calcium carbonate from the ocean to help build their shells, layer by layer.

How is sea glass made? When people discard glass into the ocean, the waves tumble it around, and over many years, it becomes sea glass. One of the most famous places to find it is Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

Is sea glass worth money? It can be. Similar to gems, it depends on different factors, such as the color and shape. One piece of sea glass has sold for over $1,000.

What are the most common colors of sea glass? White, green, and brown.

What are the rarest colors of sea glass? Red and orange.

Are there different types of seagulls? There isn’t a bird called a seagull. What most people call seagulls are actually types of birds in the Laridae, or “gull and tern,” family, which has more than 35 species. Herring gulls, which have a telltale red spot on their bills, are found all over the country. Glaucous-winged gulls are partial to the Pacific Coast, and during the winter, so are California gulls. Otherwise you’ll find the latter hanging out at inland lakes and streams in the West. Find out more at

How can seagulls drink sea water? Herring gulls have special glands over their eyes that allow them to excrete the salt in the water.

Do seagulls have nests and lay eggs? Yes. Herring gulls often place their nests near rocks, logs, or bushes to protect them from predators and strong wind.

Is a starfish a fish? It is actually called a sea star and is not a fish. Sea stars do not have the fins or gills that are found on fish. Like sand dollars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers, they are echinoderms. A fun fact about sea stars is that they can regenerate their arms. See

Why do the tides change? The gravitational pull of the sun and moon causes tide changes.

How do people know the times of low and high tides? Creating a tide chart with the times of high and low tides is not an exact science. Factors such as ocean currents, winds, and the contour of the ocean bottom can all influence what time high/low tide will occur. The most authoritative source in the United States for predicting tides is the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS). There are 140 tide stations that measure tide levels, the speed and direction of wind and water, air and water temperatures, and barometric pressure. These measurements create tide chart times.

What causes ocean waves? Waves are the result of winds moving over the ocean’s surface.

How is sand created? Sand is made mostly of quartz rocks, which wind and rain break down and streams, rivers, and wind deliver to the beach.

If your children have even more questions, go to your local library and borrow books on marine biology and ecology. Also visit the UC Davis Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory; drop-in tours are held on most Fridays, 2–4 p.m. See for more information. 

Surf and Sand

Looking for great, kid-friendly local beaches? Start here.

Bodega Bay

Doran Regional Park. This park boasts not only a two-mile stretch of flat beach, but also a one-mile trail and an ADA-accessible boardwalk. Beach wheelchairs are available on request. Flush toilets. Dogs on a leash no more than six-feet long allowed. $7 day-use fee.

Salmon Creek Beach. Beach comb or build a shelter along nearly two-miles of sandy shore. Some extraordinary huts have popped up recently, especially on the south end of the beach. The north tip of the beach is excellent for tide pooling. Pit toilets. No dogs or horses are permitted. Free.


Goat Rock Beach. There are two parking lots at this beach. The one at the south end, accessible via a one-lane road, is directly in front of Goat Rock and has pit toilets. The one at the north end is close to seal habitat and has flush toilets. No dogs. (Leashed dogs are permitted at nearby Blind Beach.) Free.

Shell Beach. Descend a steep flight of stairs to go to this small beach, which, like Salmon Creek Beach, is a good place for spotting sea anemones at low tide. Look at but don’t touch the fragile marine life. Pit toilets. No dogs. Free.

Note: Swimming is not safe at any of these beaches, which are known for riptides and sleeper waves.

This article was originally published on Motherly.

Cheryl Maguire holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Find her on Twitter @CherylMaguire05.